Netanyahu: Hitler Didn't Want to Exterminate the Jews

Prime minister tells World Zionist Congress that Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, but Jerusalem's Grand Mufti convinced him to exterminate them, a claim that was rejected by most accepted Holocaust scholars.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked public uproar when on Tuesday he claimed that the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler's mind. The Nazi ruler, Netanyahu said, had no intention of killing the Jews, but only to expel them.

In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here (to Palestine).' According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: "What should I do with them?" and the mufti replied: "Burn them."

Netanyahu's remarks were quick to spark a social media storm, though Netanyahu made a similar claim during a Knesset speech in 2012, where he described the Husseini as "one of the leading architects" of the final solution.

The claim that Husseini was the one to initiate the extermination of European Jewry had been suggested by a number of historians at the fringes of Holocaust research, but was rejected by most accepted scholars.

The argument concerning Husseini's role was recently mentioned in a book by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, "Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East." The authors, like Netanyahu, draw a straight line between the mufti's support of Hitler and the policy of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat.

But even these two researchers do not claim that the dialogue described by Netanyahu ever took place. They say Hitler reached the conclusion to exterminate the Jews because of his desire to nurture Husseini, who opposed the transfer of Jews to pre-state Israel.